Steve Almasy and Melissa Abbey, CNN, July 19, 2012
Worshippers at an Islamic center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, will have to wait a few more weeks before they can use their new mosque, officials said Thursday.
The mosque — subject of a two-year battle marked by legal wrangling, vandalism and anti-Muslim sentiment — still needs to pass inspection and get its occupancy permit, mosque officials said.
“It is unfortunate that we cannot be in our building for the start of Ramadan tonight,” the officials said in a written statement. “However, it does look like we will get to enjoy most of Ramadan in our building, especially the breaking of the fast at the end of Ramadan, on Eid-ul-Fitr.”
Kevin Fisher, who is opposed the mosque, told CNN affiliate WZTV on Wednesday that the issue was never about someone’s right to worship but rather about whether the planning commission gave proper public notice.
“I do believe in our system. I believe in due process,” he said. “You have to respect the system, even if you disagree sometimes with the decision it makes.”
Sally Wall, one of the leading opponents of the mosque, said she wasn’t surprised by the ruling and never thought her group would win the court case. She said she just wanted to show Muslims that they are not welcome in Murfreesboro.
Faced with the fact that the mosque is likely to be opening soon, she said she hopes it doesn’t bring “1,000 to 2,000 Muslim families here.”
She plans to keep up the fight, and said the controversy has drawn the community closer together.
“Everyone else feels the same way I do (about the mosque) except the 5% who moved here the day before yesterday,” she said.
A municipal worker who lives near the mosque said most of the residents in her neighborhood are more concerned about the traffic than the Muslim presence. But for the majority of the town it’s the term “Muslim” that counts, she said.
The issue is widely discussed among local residents and some people near her have even put their houses up for sale, she said, because they don’t want to be near a Muslim congregation.
The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro has existed for more than a decade, but the fight erupted in 2010 when planning commissioners approved an expansion project.
The construction site has been vandalized several times, including by an arson attack in 2010, and federal authorities have charged a Texas man with calling in a bomb threat to the center before last year’s anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.
“Not welcome” was spray-painted by vandals on a sign announcing the construction of the project.